Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) doesn’t recognize virtual or zoom marriages for family-class sponsorship, however, foreign spouses may still be able to cross the border.

The rule dates back to 2015.  Canada’s immigration department decided that only those Canadian citizens who are members of the Canadian Armed Forces could sponsor their spouse who they married from a distant location, and only if certain conditions made the marriage to be conducted virtually or “by proxy.”

This decision, which is causing some cross-border couples problems today, was an effort to put a stop to victims of forced marriage from being eligible for Canadian immigration.

Zoom marriages facilitate this type of abuse because neither person has to be present for the wedding solemnization. In simple terms, it is easier to make two people get married if they are not the ones signing the contract.

But when it comes to a legitimate couple who needs to have a virtual marriage or video conference wedding because of coronavirus pandemic measures, immigration experts question whether or not it considered as a proxy wedding.

The difference between a proxy and zoom marriages is that proxies can be carried out by a representative, whereas couples who had virtual ceremonies either through video messenger or even via phone.

Canadian law under the Immigration Refugee Protection Regulations precisely states that couples have to be “physically present” at their marriage ceremony in order to be considered eligible for spousal sponsorship.

“To be considered physically present at a marriage ceremony, both couples must have participated in a wedding ceremony in person,” both Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and IRCC stipulated.

The “in-person” distinction seems to be more and more called for during the coronavirus pandemic. Demand for virtual marriages increased in March and has remained steady since. Kevin Smith, the WebWed marketing manager, said the online marriage service saw nearly 400 per cent increase in sales since during the lockdown.

“We are doing approximately twenty (20) weddings every day and we used to do about twenty (20) weddings a month,” Smith reveals.

Canada immigration department has made a number of changes to keep families together during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most recently, IRCC has made exemptions for immediate family members, including spouses, to come to Canada if they are staying for more than fifteen (15) days. However, the immigration department says that no special measures are in place to accommodate proxy marriages.

That does not mean married couples who got wedded over video messenger have no options. Married couples can still be considered as common-law partners if they meet all the criteria and have lived together for at least twelve (12) consecutive months. They may also be able to get married for IRCC’s purposes in Canada if they are allowed to cross the border.

Coming to Canada for love during COVID-19 pandemic

Married couples and common-law partners must prove beyond reasonable doubt their marital status to immigration officers in order to be exempt from travel restrictions.

They also have to comply with the fourteen (14) days mandatory quarantine regulations. immigration officers assess each individual case and make judgements based on the current travel laws, and the facts placed before them by the traveller.

The Canadian border department offers the following list of some of the documents that can be considered and accepted as proof of marriage:

  • a marriage certificate;
  • proof of registration of marriage with a government (state, provincial, or local) authority;
  • if the couple have children in common, birth certificates or adoption records listing the names of both parents will suffice;
  • wedding photos and invitations.

Canadian border services will accept marriage certificates that were given in other countries, but couples still have to prove beyond doubt that the marriage is legally binding both in Canada and in the country where it took place.

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